by Buz Wolfe
For several years now, the WHOLE HOUSE INSPECTION (i.e. Home Inspection) has become pretty much a standard condition for all Agreements of Sale for residential real estate. In theory, this is a good thing. The old days of “caveat emptor” (Buyer Beware) are long gone.
The Home Inspection process was designed to inform the Buyer of any legitimate issues with the home that might require repairs, improvements, or even replacement. Although the Seller is obligated to make good faith acknowledgements in the Pennsylvania mandated Seller Property Disclosure Statement, there are often deficiencies within the home about which even the homeowner is unaware. The Home Inspection process provides the opportunity to discover any deficiencies and educate the Buyer about future maintenance and repairs as well.
Legitimate structural issues such as the discovery of termites or radon gas or mechanical issues involving the functionality of the furnace, well or septic almost always should be addressed prior to closing. While there is no obligation on the part of the Seller to remedy these defects, it is generally prudent to do so and rarely are we unable to resolve these types of issues between the parties. Repairs are made in some instances while a cash concession is made in others.
The problem arises, however, when Buyers and Buyers’ Agents use the Home Inspection to create a “second negotiation”. In these instances, the Home Inspection is used as a tool to renegotiate the “business deal” already struck between Seller and Buyer. This causes many problems and, far too frequently, may result in a contract being terminated. This is where level heads and common sense are necessary.
As a Buyer, you would do well to be reminded that the Seller has probably already negotiated to their “bottom line” and, in many cases, also agreed to provide “seller assistance dollars” to the purchaser as well. While LEGITIMATE items are fair game, trying to renegotiate a new roof for the same 15 year old roof that you have already agreed to buy is just asking for trouble. And, my experience tells me that the less amicable a transaction becomes, the less likely it ends up at the settlement table. So, Buyers should be reasonable when evaluating their Home Inspection.
Sellers, on the other hand, would be well served to spend $400 or so and have a home inspection done before or shortly after they list their home. By identifying legitimate items that require repairs or improvements, they can save time and money in making these corrections or, at a minimum, quantify the amount of money that will be involved in the “second negotiation”. While Sellers are rarely willing to take this advice, I find that more and more of my clients are beginning to give this serious consideration at the front end in order to avoid a lot of extra headaches at the back. It truly is money well spent.
Keep in mind, too, that there are three types of Home Inspectors. Those that really don’t know what they are doing all that well; those that believe they are “God’s gift to the transaction”’; and those who are good, common sense “providers of information”. As hard as it may be to believe, there is no certification or requirement to become a Home Inspector in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While it is highly suggested that consumers use an Inspector who is a member of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), these individuals vary greatly with regard to their actual level of expertise. As such, they tend to call out anything imaginable to cover potential liability and avoid any exposure or future litigation. They also might feel a need to justify their fee. Trade specific experts should be called in to evaluate anything that is uncertain to the Home Inspector himself. Home inspectors do have limits to their expertise.
So, the notion of having a Home Inspection is certainly a good idea. The manner in which the Home Inspection results are treated is the difference between a happy Seller and Buyer shaking hands at the closing table or parting ways before the Sold sign appears.
*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, CRS has been Broker/Owner of his own firm since 1986. In 2016, he was again the Carlisle Area’s Top Producing Independent Broker.
**All information believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.